February has come and gone (where did it go?)... and our book group's reading challenge for February was to read a book on the best seller list. My online book group chose to pick a book from the New York Times bestsellers list for February and many of use became so engrossed in the books that one book became three (or four, or more!)
The first book I chose for the month was The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. This was a mystery/suspense/thriller and I was completely taken in from the first page. I think I finished the book in 3-4 days, which is record time for me. The main character/narrator is Rachel... a beautifully sensitive, ironic, and deeply flawed (yet completely lovable) young lady. She rides the train every day to work and you learn about "stories" she makes up about people and places she sees along the way every day.
I loved this aspect of the story so much, because it's something that I also do... but before long Rachel gets involved in a story about two of the people she sees and she gets wrapped into a mystery that she unwillingly becomes a part of. It's hard to say too much about this story without giving anything away, so I'll leave it up to you to read more. I will say, this was my absolute favorite book of the month and I'll be reading/listening to it again soon and I look forward to reading more books by Paula Hawkins! (The aud*ible version of the book with the three different narrators including Louise Brealey of "Sherlock" fame was one of the best narrations I've listened to in a LONG time... who needs a movie!)
For another great review, check out the write up on NPR. As soon as I finished the book I couldn't help but make a date with my husband to watch 'Rear Window' which has similar thriller/suspense storytelling!
The second book I read was Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Several friends had read this book in the past year and they either loved it or hated it, especially the ending... so I was intrigued. Of all the books I read this month this was the one that "stuck" with me in terms of thinking about the overall themes and outcomes of the book. It was by far my LEAST favorite as far as story line and content... but it was a bewildering book in so many regards. If there is a book that has ever thrown me for a loop throughout the story, this one takes the cake. I was shocked, horrified, inspired, and awed. I don't know exactly how to categorize this book, but it definitely has major elements of suspense and mystery.
This book will truly leave you thinking. I think in some aspects I would coin it as a very brave book from the hands of the author. You will not leave this book liking the characters, truly enjoying the story, or learning/having any big moment of self-awareness or realization... what you will leave with is an utter sense of shock and bewilderment... and it will leave you thinking about people you know, about circumstances in life, and who knows what else... I imagine it will be very different for every reader. I recommend the book if you are okay with a lot of language, sexual scenes... however if are a victim of sexual violence or trauma, this book could may cause emotional triggers.
The third book I read was Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty. This book was full of surprises. I wasn't really sure what to expect from the book since it was centered around parents of children that go to a small elementary/primary school in a small town in England. I don't have children, so I'm not involved in the parental politics of dealing with the local PTA, cliques, and mommy wars... so I wasn't even sure if I would enjoy this book. However, it was a really fun and surprising read. I enjoyed how the book was written, and the characters in this book are extremely likable and relate-able.
This book is again part mystery/part suspense (my personal favorite genre!). The main character Madeline was definitely a favorite of mine throughout the entire story. As a parent who tries desperately to fit in with the group of moms surrounding her, yet also trying to take new friends under her wing, she's a truly realistic and fun character with a great family. She's constantly dealing with her past as well as trying to shape her future as a wife and mother of a blended family and as a good and loyal friend to those around her. There are many challenges and and frustrations she faces throughout the book, especially when it comes to the mystery within the book. I can't really say much about the mystery without giving away plot lines, but as with many in this genre, someone dies... just this time... at a PTA meeting... you know, the regular type of setting!
The intertwined friendships of Madeline, Jane, and Celeste are so relate-able and their narration throughout the book is intriguing and continually makes you want to read more. I'd definitely like to read this book over again, because in some ways I went through it so quickly (because I kept wanting to find out what happened), I missed out on a lot of great details.
Big, Little, Lies was my 2nd favorite of the month after The Girl on the Train. I would highly recommend both of these books as unique mysteries, enjoyable dialog and writing, and great characters.
Gone Girl is in some ways much more literary than the other two books, but also a fascinating read and a great study of some aspects of human psychology and psychopathic tendencies.
Our book group's choice for the March theme is "a book you've been meaning to read" ... if you'd like to join our little group on facebook please shoot me an email (gingerlemongirl at gmail dot com) and I'll send you the link so you can ask to join. We'd love to have you!